About 6,000 retired regular military officers working as civilian employees of the federal government are looking forward to a substantial pay upgrade Oct. 1. Generally, it would mean an additional $9,000 a year or more for the retirees. Many of them work for federal agencies in the Washington area.

The extra take-home pay is expected because of a rule change that would allow the workers to receive all their retired military pay as part of a pending repeal of the so-called dual compensation law. That law has long limited the amount of retired pay that regular (but not reserve) officers can receive while on the federal civilian payroll. The repeal, approved by Senate-House conferees on the defense authorization bill, is expected to be approved when Congress returns from its August recess. The change also would benefit thousands of retired regular officers who work for state or local governments or as public school teachers and who are subject to partial offsets of their retired pay.

Although the retired officers income would rise significantly, the increase isn't a pay raise. It is more a "restoration" of part of their retired pay--money they haven't seen since they traded in their military positions for civilian civil service jobs.

The adjustment would not be retroactive. And it is not related to the 4.8 percent military pay raise that goes into effect in January 2000, which also is part of the authorization bill.

The 4.8 percent military raise also may be extended to civilian federal workers, who are currently slated for a 4.4 percent raise. The larger raise and repeal of the dual compensation law would mean a double-barreled increase for the retired officers.

If Congress passes the authorization bill, as expected, the decades-old offset on retired regular officers pay would be eliminated. The law forces retired regular officers who take civilian government jobs to forfeit half of their retired pay on amounts above $10,450 a year. They lose that pay as long as they hold civilian government jobs.

Congress enacted the statute preventing double-dipping years ago. At the time, politicians felt (with some justification) that some high-ranking regular military officers were greasing the skids for themselves before they retired so they could slip in to high-paying government jobs--often in agencies or programs where they served as part of their military tour of duty.

Right or wrong, federal law also limited the combined retired military pay and civil service salary of all military retirees--enlisted, reserve and regular--to Level 5 of the civilian executive pay schedule. Currently, that is $110,700.

Over the years, many people have argued that it is unfair to restrict retired pay of only regular military officers. Retired reserve officers aren't hit by dual compensation provisions.

People who retire from other professions and take government jobs get to keep their pensions and their government paychecks without any offset. The fact that they didn't make a career in the military, or become an officer, works for them.

The Retired Officers Association spearheaded the decades-long fight to eliminate the dual compensation law. If the authorization bill is signed into law, as expected, repeal of the dual compensation law would be effective Oct. 1.

Defense Buyouts

The defense authorization bill would extend the Defense Department's buyout authority from Sept. 30, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2003. Defense needs the extra time because it wants to to avoid layoffs while it downsizes and contracts out more work to the private sector.

Executive Thinking

The government's 6,800 senior executives soon will be getting a detailed questionnaire asking them to rate their jobs, agency mission, funding and customer service. A private contractor will assemble the survey results for the Office of Personnel Management and the Senior Executives Association.

Although respondents are asked to provide data on the age, ethnicity, education, salary, length of service and agency, OPM says no effort will be made to identify individuals. The survey also will ask the executives how they feel about compensation and benefits, about their willingness to relocate and when they will be eligible to retire.

An accompanying letter--signed by SEA President Carol A. Bonosaro and OPM Director Janice R. Lachance--says survey data will be used to "help shape the Senior Executive Service of the 21st century" by giving policymakers an insiders' view of what is--and isn't working--within the elite corps.

Mike Causey's e-mail address is causeym@washpost.com